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Playing basketball and collecting watches are basically the same thing. For the biggest prizes, there are an elite few chasing very limited prizes, only the people at the top of their respective games can compete for the best stuff, and both require all-world athleticism (kidding!). Where they differ is that on the court, James can’t win ’em all. But off the court, where he can access even the most rare and exclusive of treasures, it’s a different story. Case in point: Even after a demoralizing defeat in Denver against the Nuggets Thursday night, LeBron James was still a winner on the wrist with his. very special edition of the Richard Mille RM 11-03. (The Lakers are absolutely cleaning up the critical moral victories in this series.)
Few watches have defined a certain type of watch collector over the past few years quite like the RM 11-03. The piece’s bulky and aggressively spiny case make it instantly recognizable. Richard Mille, the man, is a massive auto enthusiast who turned the watch’s pushers into accelerator pedals and designed the face of the watch to look like a supercar’s dashboard. The watch was once considered the “billionaire’s secret handshake” because of the IYKYK radiowaves it beamed out to other members of the .01%. Now, it’s something more akin to the billionaire’s trombone, pushing out a loud and long announcement of the wearer’s status.
At its peak, this is how we thought of Richard Mille: “Amongst a group of individuals whose lives comprise of blasting around in 1,000 horsepower supercars, being ferried by helicopter to party all night on yachts moored of the coast of the world’s most seductive locales. and then recuperating while horizontal and often in connubial bliss on their private jets, the Richard Mille watch is the membership badge to an ultra-exclusive alternate reality most people will never have access to,” Wei Koh, the founder of watch magazine Revolutionwrote in 2018. WOW!
James, obviously, is a member of this (imaginary) RM club along with many other A-listers (coincidentally enough, it looks like Tom Brady recently picked one up for himself, too). James’s blue quartz edition of the 11-03 represents an even higher and more exclusive tier of collecting. The brand made this to commemorate the “50th anniversary” of Jean Todt’s career, which includes stints as the CEO of Ferrari and as president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile that oversees Formula 1 racing. The inspiration hardly matters when the watch looks this great, though.
Lewis Hamilton’s Patek Philippe Nautilus
Speaking of signaling membership to an exclusive club of the ultra-rich, may I present Hamilton sitting courtside at the Lakers game wearing a Nautilus. The Nautilus has come a long way since it was first designed and released in the mid-’70s. Once Patek’s sportiest watch, the more casual alternative to its highly complex and more elegant options, the watch has become a calling card for the collectors with the most money and access. Patek was forced to discontinue one version of the watch, the pared-down navy-dial 5711, because its popularity threatened to consume the company, which has much broader ambitions than making the most desirable steel sport watch in the world. Hamilton’s is a step up from that discontinued piece: His is made out of rose gold, equipped with a chronograph, and is now buddies with fellow rare-Nautilus-collector. Leonardo DiCaprio.
Kyle Lowry’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Like Hamilton’s Nautilus, Lowry’s watch is a very souped-up version of an iconic ’70s sport watch. The Royal Oak also started as a stainless steel piece and has sprouted all sorts of high-end editions in the five decades since its debut. And it doesn’t get much more premium than Lowry’s Royal Oak, which is made out of blue ceramic and comes with a perpetual calendar.
Eric Andre’s Casio F-91W
I’ve shown you some excruciatingly expensive watches so far, but here’s one you can get right now for $30. The Casio will keep perfect time so long as the battery is working and, like the above Royal Oak, comes in its own fun shade of blue.
Renell Medrano’s Audemars Piguet Bamboo
Photographer Medrano has great taste: She shot the cover artwork for Kendrick Lamar’s latest album and our very own Timothée Chalamet cover shoot. So when she showed up to sit courtside at the Lakers game this week, she didn’t wear just any old watch. On her wrist is the AP “Bamboo” with a gold bracelet that’s reminiscent of the plant’s stalks. While Audemars is now best known as the maker behind the Royal Oak, its history of interesting dress pieces like the Star Wheel and Bamboo is finally starting to surface. This piece came from dealer @VerySpecial who told me over DM these watches are “kind of a pain in the ass to find.”That’s cool. Also cool: To get this watch to fit on your wrist, you literally have to cut the bracelet to the correct size. No going back after that. Hat tip to Dimepiece for the spot.